Altered Image

Shockwave deploys a re-programmed Megatron as the perfect agent to take down Galvatron, who surely would be unable to destroy his past-self

In the early years, Transformers annuals tended to run with standalone stories that were loosely connected to the main comics continuity and in some cases didn’t fit at all (for a good example see 1985’s ‘A Plague of Insecticons’, also famous for featuring Ronald Reagan).

But in 1988, just like the previous year, publishers Marvel and Grandreams have cottoned on that it makes much better business sense to tie at least one of the strips into the weekly Transformers comic and ensure crossover sales (to be fair though, most regular TF comic readers would buy both regardless).

In the previous year, the conclusion of the ‘Wanted Galvatron’ saga happened in the annual, and for 1988 it’s the pay-off of a story that’s been building for a while – the showdown between Megatron and his future self Galvatron.

Shockwave, who leads the Earthbound Decepticons in the present day (1988) had been badly rattled by an undersea encounter with Galvatron, where he was outsmarted and came close to losing his command.

He decided that he needed a powerful agent, somebody with the brute strength to defeat Galvatron, and only Megatron fitted the bill. He was also the perfect solution, as Galvatron – who has been hiding out in Earth’s past these last two years, since fleeing from 2006 – cannot possibly destroy Megatron without potentially erasing himself in the process. It’s a delicious conundrum, and a win-win for Shockwave who stands to rid himself of two rivals.

Megatron was retrieved from his watery grave in the Thames (see Ancient Relics for how he came to be there) and reprogrammed to believe that Galvatron is an imposter who dares to claim he is descended from Megatron. Fresh from his take-down of Cyclonus in ‘Dry Run’, Megatron has proven his readiness and been deployed.

Altered Image is the tale of that meeting. It’s plotted by Simon Furman, with his old editor Ian Rimmer on writing duties, and Lee Sullivan providing the art. The colours by Steve White are impressive too and give a clean finish.

It opens with Galvatron staring at his reflection in the glass panels of a wrecked office block. A city centre lays in ruins and deserted – Galvatron has gone to a lot of trouble to draw attention to himself. It’s never explained, but somehow, he knows that Megatron will be coming for him and has determined that the meeting should be of his own choosing. I suppose you could say that Galvatron remembers the encounter from a time when he was Megatron, except that it will eventually turn out that this Megatron isn’t the original at all (see the 1989 story ‘Two Megatrons’ for that clumsy explanation).

Megatron charges into view, accusing Galvatron of lies for daring to claim he is descended from him. Galvatron repudiates this with quick references to his rebirth by Unicron in 2006 and points out the obvious: that Shockwave is manipulating them. He experiences the fury of Megatron’s fusion cannon, which must be a novel experience having always been the one firing it previously, and blows are traded.

You would think that Shockwave would have seen to it that Megatron’s personality remained submerged, so that he would not be open to critical thinking and possible persuasion by Galvatron. Perhaps success requires a Megatron with his powers of agile thinking and cunning intact, but it’s a big risk for Shockwave.

Galvatron contemplates destroying Megatron if he cannot reason with him, after all he doesn’t know for sure what the temporal consequences would be. He transforms into his cannon mode and fires, appearing to miss. Megatron’s triumph is short lived though as a huge chunk of building descends on him.

As Megatron crawls out of debris, Galvatron reveals there are worse indignities to come like when Starscream throws him into space in the future. His curiosity peaked, Megatron inquires how Galvatron avenged this, and the reply comes in the form of a question: “What would you have done?” Megatron laughs. If not the same being they are at least like minds, and an alliance could be in their mutual interest.

In conclusion, it’s a nice little story but short at six pages and probably if it had appeared as a standard 22 pages two-parter in the UK comic it would have been done with a bit more fanfare and drama. Instead, the script and the actual dust-up are a little thin, given the build-up. That said, the 1989 year-opener ‘Time Wars’ will feature a more satisfying example of Megatron and Galvatron fighting side-by-side so there is a good pay-off coming up.

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